(Washington, DC) –U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today co-sponsored new legislation to close gaps in cruise industry consumer awareness and crime reporting. Serious incidents continue to occur on cruise ships, yet the industry has not prioritized consumer awareness, safety, and security. The bill would provide the nearly 21 million Americans who plan to take a cruise this year with critical information about the limited scope of their current consumer protections and would take steps to improve accountability in the industry. The bill was introduced by U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV).
“When Americans board cruise ships headed for international waters, they need to know where their rights begin and end,” Blumenthal said. “This bill will make sure consumers are given clear notice of the risks associated with cruise ship travel before they buy a ticket; and if their rights are violated, this bill will help ensure that they have a place to seek recourse.”
“This bill is the only way we’re going to make consumer awareness and protection a priority, since the cruise industry seems to refuse to take action on its own,” said Rockefeller. “During our hearing sixteen months ago, after a number of high-profile incidents, the industry promised to make real changes, but I had my doubts. Once the TV cameras turned off, and the more our inquiries uncovered, it became clear that nothing was going to change without Congressional action.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) also plans to introduce similar cruise consumer protection legislation today in the House.
The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing this Wednesday, July 24, at 2:30 p.m. titled, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection”, which will focus on challenges the cruise industry continues to face, including a lack of consumer protections, the need for accurate crime reporting, and safety issues that continue to plague the industry. While cruise lines sell the idea of a cruise as a “dream vacation,” some passengers have faced serious issues, including fires, being stranded at sea and crime. At the same time, cruise companies continue to impose significant limits by requiring passengers to waive their legal rights when buying their ticket, which further restricts passengers’ abilities to hold cruise lines accountable when things go wrong.
In March 2012, after a series of alarming safety incidents on cruise ships including the Costa Concordia grounding in Italy that killed 32 people, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on whether the cruise industry was doing enough to protect passengers. During the hearing, the cruise industry’s trade association representative said that upcoming industry safety reviews would adequately protect passengers.
In the sixteen months since the hearing, several serious incidents have occurred on cruise ships that raise questions about the industry’s safety practices. One of the most notable was the Carnival Triumph fire in February 2013, which left passengers stranded at sea for days without power, plumbing and adequate food.
The Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013 would: